Tim Burton Premieres at LACMA


A Day-Glo carousel spins in a dark room, an enormous sand worm lurks overhead and every clown is more evil than the last. Yes, the new exhibit Tim Burton was previewed at LACMA today and it’s huge. The blockbuster show originated at the New York’s Museum of Modern Art in 2009 and includes over 700 pieces in about a dozen rooms dedicated to the work of the (former) L.A. artist, filmmaker, photographer and writer. “We’re honored to have It.” museum director Michael Govan told me today, “and to be able to do it justice.”  The creator of Beetlejuice, Mars Attacks and The Nightmare Before Christmas loaned pieces from his personal archive including costumes, miniatures and set pieces. Some material came from private collectors and studio collections. It’s wonderful and surreal to see the angora sweater from Ed Wood or a rubber cowl from Batman so beautifully lit and fussed over. The leather and steel bondage suit from Edward Scissorhands is reverently placed high on a pedestal in an Imperial pose that seemed more suited for Roman armor at the Getty. Several new pieces were created for the LACMA, edition including an eight-foot hot air balloon boy with too many eyes and a shaky animatronic robot that heaves and glows. The iconic movie relics share space with journal art and original sketches that give insight into the life of the lonely boy who lived by the Burbank cemetery and went on to CalArts and the Walt Disney Company before his breakout success with Pee Wee’s Big Adventure. The show is organized into three parts as an homage to Burton’s valley upbringing: Surviving Burbank, Beautifying Burbank and Beyond Burbank. In an artists’ statement, Burton says the museum setting reminds him of his days playing in the graveyard. “I was struck how similar the vibe was to the cemetery. Not in a morbid way, but both have a quiet, introspective, yet electrifying atmosphere. Excitement, mystery, discovery, life, and death all in one place.” Burton will be at the museum on Saturday to attend the gala opening and introduce his 1994 film Ed Wood, playing in the Bing Theater. Thirteen other Burton epics, as well as films that influenced or were inspired by the filmmaker, will follow throughout the summer. The show closes in October and what better way to bring down the curtain than with a grand Halloween costume ball? I can’t wait to see what slithers down Wilshire Boulevard for that one.